I know the whole baking world’s gone a bit mac-mad but you know, I just don’t really get what all the fuss is about. To me, macaroons seem a bit uptight, definitely too pretentious to be my ideal cake. And I feel downright queasy about all the artificial colours and flavours that go into them.
Also, while I’m getting this off my chest, I suspect a cabal of po-faced French patissiers of whipping home cooks into a frenzy of inadequacy over something which is, after all, a jumped-up meringue. IThe truth is they’re not actually that difficult to make – Laura and I make them for our Uparwali Chai tea parties and neither of us have ever set foot inside the Cordon Bleu.
We’ve been hearing a lot about a macaronnier called Pierre Hermé recently – he’s apparently won the Parisian battle of the macs and robbed Ladurée of the title Macaroon King. Laduree has had a shop in Harrods for some time and Hermé has just recently opened one to huge fanfare in Selfridges.
As I was walking past Selfridges the other day (being dragged to Primark by my teenage daughter), I couldn’t resist having a look. Hermé has a very fetching display in the food hall, staffed by extremely reverential young men who explain the flavours to you in a rather disdainful manner – ‘But Madame, how could you not know that ‘Arabesque’ means apricot and pistachio?’. I’m a sucker for a craze, though, and bought a box anyway, (£14 for 7!).
I took them to a friend’s house for dinner and actually they were very nice. Not mind-blowing, but pleasant enough. The best ones are those with very defined flavours like the Magnifique (strawberry and wasabi), I also loved the salted butter caramel and Eden (peach, apricot and saffron). Possibly the best part of the Hermé macaroons though is the packaging, a very pretty box, indeed. The worst is the ridiculous leaflet – ‘Your favourite Macaron will just not taste the same if mispronounced’. And don’t get me started on the ‘finish’ of a macaroon. Makes me want to rush off and make a batch of Eccles Cakes